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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 17 December, 2018

'It’s easy to go out and play in front of 6,000 people when they're roaring you on'

Champions Cork City will be aiming to keep their 100% home record intact against Bray Wanderers tonight, while leaders Dundalk travel to Dalymount Park.

Cork City keeper Mark McNulty.
Cork City keeper Mark McNulty.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

TURNER’S CROSS HAS been a fortress for reigning champions Cork City this season and they will be expected to maintain their perfect home record tonight.

Last season’s double-winners, who trail leaders Dundalk by two points with a game in-hand, entertain bottom-placed Bray Wanderers in their first fixture since the 0-0 draw with Derry City last week.

The Seagulls have picked up encouraging wins over the Candystripes and Shamrock Rovers in recent weeks as well as a respectable 2-2 draw against Waterford on Monday.

City may not have hit top form yet but, having conceded just one goal at the Cross all year and with nine clean sheets to his name, goalkeeper Mark McNulty is confident of a avoiding an upset this evening.

“If you look at the league table, the season looks like it is going well,” the experienced stopper said. “Some of the performances haven’t been up to the standard we would have liked but, coming up to the break, if you had told us we would be there or thereabouts, we would be happy with that. We’re up there, so we are doing alright.

“Bray struggled at the start of the season, but they have picked up recently. You look at the points they have picked up this season; it has been against Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry, Waterford… They know that if they can pick up three points, it will really help them because they are starting to catch the teams above them.

They are coming down here, but we are the home team, we are the team pushing for trophies, so we have to go and take the game to them and hopefully get the three points.

“Our home form has been brilliant. The Limerick game was the first time we conceded at home this season, so it shows how strong we have been, but for me, it’s easy to go out and play in front of 6,000 people when they are roaring you on. Even when things maybe weren’t going our way, they were still with us and they play a huge part for us.”

There are fitness doubts over Alan Bennett, Steven Beattie and Gearóid Morrisey, while long-term absentee John Dunleavy hasn’t regained his fitness yet.

Bray celebrate Ronan Coughlan's goal Bray's players celebrating a goal against Shamrock Rovers last month. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Manager John Caulfield added: “From now until the break, we have a good few games, and it is important that we are up near the top going into the break. It has been a funny league in the sense that a lot of teams have dropped points away from home. I think home form is going to be crucial this year, so if we can make Turner’s Cross a fortress and pick points up away from home, then you have a good chance.

“We have kept nine clean sheets so far, which is excellent, despite the fact that we have had a relatively new back four. Obviously, we are looking to see can we score more goals, as we haven’t scored as many as we would like but, at the same time, we are in a fantastic position. For me, it is about keeping our performance levels high and continuing to improve, so we must keep that going.”

SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month April Michael Duffy with his Player of the Month award. Source: Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE

Up at Dalymount Park, Cork’s fellow title-rivals Dundalk face Bohemians. Lilywhites winger Michael Duffy was this week named SSE Airtricity League/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month for April — his first time claiming the award — thanks to three goals and three assists.

“It’s a huge honour for me,” the former Celtic man said. “It was the first time I won it. I am buzzing to get the award. I think I am playing well at the minute and I am enjoying my football. I have got a few goals and I want to get more.

“The award is nice but it’s about helping the team and helping everyone get to where we want to go. I want to get as many goals and assists as I can. I want to keep enjoying my football and hopefully we can keep winning.”

“Bohemians are a good side and they have got a couple of good results recently,” Duffy added. “It’s always a difficult one against them but we are in good form and playing well. It’s a tough schedule playing Friday-Monday but we are used to it.

“We want to go to Dalymount and put in another good performance on the night. We are playing well I feel so if we go and play as well as we can then hopefully we can get another win which is what we want.”

Bohemians players pictured before the game The Bohemians players. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Duffy was on the scoresheet as Dundalk ran out 4-1 winners over Derry City at the Brandywell and their two previous meetings with seventh-placed Bohs — in the league and the EA Sports Cup — this term have ended in 3-0 victories.

Medial knee ligament damage means John Mountney joins Stephen O’Donnell (broken leg), Sean Gannon (broken ribs) and Karolis Chvedukas (ankle injury) on the sidelines, but centre-half Dan Cleary returns from a one-match suspension.

“We are going up against a good Bohemians team with a good attitude,” said manager Stephen Kenny. “I think that the players have shown real determination.

“We have real pace and it gives us a real attacking threat. We have a lot of pace in the team and it gives us the ability to break quickly.

“It’s a real asset to us and it has helped us score a lot of goals recently. It has helped with our results and we want to continue in that vein. ”

Premier Division fixtures

PL fixtures 18 May

First Division fixtures 

FD fixtures 17 May

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Ben Blake

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